Techless in D.C.

OK. I know it's only George W. Bush's third week in office, but I think the question is legitimate: Where is his technology advisor?

OK. I know its only George W. Bushs third week in office, but I think the question is legitimate: Where is his technology advisor?

There were pre-inaugural rumors swirling around the Beltway that George II might appoint a "technology czar" to oversee government — and perhaps broader — technology policy. Then, as fast as it arose, the whisper ceased.

The new president has clearly had a full plate finding, interviewing and shepherding his cabinet picks through the Senate nomination process on a very tight timetable. Ill allow him that excuse, but how hard can it really be to find a science advisor? There are scores of underpaid scientists in academia who would welcome a high-profile tour outside the ivory tower.

Technology policy is far down the list of priorities for the new administration. It was obvious from Bushs perfunctory grin-and-grab photo ops with Silicon Valley types during the campaign. In his now trademark style, Dubya delivered a few shallow bromides about the importance of technology as the engine of economic growth; then it was on to the next whistle stop at the nearby 4-H club.

There are some things I dont miss about the Clinton years, but with tech policy, I fear the old days will start looking better and better.

Bush will eventually get around to naming a science advisor, and someone lower down will be tapped to handle "all that tech stuff." But dont expect much more in the near term. Whereas Al Gore actively led tech policymaking, Bush appears more comfortable lying back and leaving the difficult stuff to others.

Thats a problem. With such crucial issues as Internet taxation and privacy at the fore, the vacuum will be filled with self-interested industry lobbyists and a few powerful Capitol Hill staffers. And there is a real danger they will become the unelected arbiters of the Internets future.

Randy Barrett is News Editor at Interactive Week. He can be reached at [email protected]